Well what a prospect the front four of Rooney, van Persie, Mata and Januzaj poses to be. There were glimpses against a stubborn Crystal Palace of a quartet as talented as the three-pronged attack which took us to Moscow. Juan Mata, the latest to join, and whose signing gave the whole Club a lift (he was just the business for Chelsea, wasn’t he?), can now also claim an unexpected attribute shared by the other members of this quartet. Recent contract extensions for Jaunzaj and Rooney (now amongst the world’s highest-paid players), have shown MUFC appearing to be in a position of strength. So much so that I heard and read similar comments when they put pen to paper as to when van Persie and Mata signed:
‘See, the Glazers aren’t so bad, are they?’
Well yes, they really f***ing are.
People often mention the ‘net spend being lower than Stoke and Sunderland’ and similar nuggets when discussing the current ownership, and with justification, but I only really offer such Glazer consequences to those unable to grasp anything more complex than thoughts like ‘replacing Ronaldo and Tevez with Valencia and Owen’. My disdain for the owners runs much further than transfer budgets.
And, to be perfectly honest, big-money signings never bothered me too much anyway. The repeatedly-relegated Man City out-spent the repeatedly Champions Man United in the 90s. Look it up. My Dad told me of the Busby Babes, my uncle of the Fergie Fledglings, and I saw for myself the Class of ’92. My idea of United always involved producing the best as much as buying the best.
Stingy owners are nothing new, either. Fergie’s disagreements with Martin Edwards are well-documented, and I remember the regular 90s links with Batistuta, Salas and the like, only to watch them head to the land of the Lira. It was not until Kenyon arrived that United began to spend more in line with our European counterparts; van Nistelrooy, Veron, Ferdinand, Rooney. For decades, football club owners (like Edwards) accross the land have been known to trouser large amounts of cash where possible, but at least did something to warrant it (in Edwards’ case, being born to his Father).
So I do not mind the fact that United do not spend as much as Real Madrid, because we never have. Or that Directors and other senior figures earn disproportionate amounts, because they always have. Yes, that includes the Glazers – they own the club, not me. So they earn a ridiculous salary, not me. (They may ‘own’ the club legally, although they never can spiritually. That is down to you and me, folks.)
What I will never accept is that the huge black hole of money vanishing from the Club does so for the sole reason of allowing the Glazers to own the Club in the first place. £600m. Six. Hundred. Million. Pounds. That is not money that has been spent on anything other than interest. That is not the amount the Glazers paid for the Club. That is not money paid to reduce the huge debt. That is not even money the Glazers have taken out for themselves as dividends and payments. It is money that has been paid by the Club (or, more accurately, the supporters) to the banks to say ‘Thanks, old chums’ for sorting the Glazers the I.O.Us to buy the Club in the first place. So we are paying for our owners to have our Club, with our own money. Not theirs. We have bought the Club for the Glazers. Geddit? And the only reason for this is because they wanted the club in the first place. To make even more money out of us.
Things were put into perspective back in 2010 when it was calculated that, had the takeover not happened, EVERY SINGLE MUFC Season Ticket holder could have had the previous five years’ season ticket books for free during that period, and the Club would be no worse off. It wasn’t even the Glazers who pocketed that money, it was all spent on interest. For what? For them to have the club in the first place.
Instead, Season Ticket prices rose year on year through a recession, and are up around 50% on average since 2005. ‘Supply and Demand’ people say. Well yes that is true. But when that extra money sails straight out of the Club and down the Ship Canal, that point seems moot. If the takeover had not happened, fans could have attended all Old Trafford matches for free for five years, and the Club accounts would have been no worse off. Just read that last sentence back.
Following the takeover, there have been redundancies, the abolishment of the women’s team, and perks such as staff (and some players) tickets for the 2006 League Cup Final being taken away. One could argue such moves make ‘financial business sense’, but, you see, my Football Club never felt like merely a business to me, always something more than that. I still see it as a community ‘Club’, bringing people from all walks of life together, existing for the enjoyment and benefit of all those it represents. Naive I may be, but to me MUFC has held a virtuous history with strong community links, and should continue to do so.
And the benefit of having the Glazers there? Well, turnover has gone up. But so has pretty much every comparable club’s, with new TV deals (Sky and BT), and extra sponsorship revenue across Europe. So this can hardly be all a result of the owners’ business acumen (which is a topic Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans may have a few thoughts on). On top of that we have seen swathes of club redundancies, arguments and divisions between supporters, and an abject disregard for fans and supporter groups by the Club themselves. Not to mention having the Club’s name cheaply attributed to anything and everything around the globe by way of ‘Official Partnerships’. Eugh.
And that’s without even starting on squad re-investment and the Ronaldo money.
So, after an ownership which has so far caused emotional, personal and financial strain for almost everyone connected with MUFC, our ‘wonderful owners’ sanctioning the money for the current forward line really is a proverbial drop in a very salty, murky, sewage-spliced ocean.
Read more on the finances (as I did, with thanks) at:
Other useful reading:
The Guardian: Glazer’s cup final cutbacks anger United players:
MUST statement on ST revenues vs interest payments: